Cancer patients and survivors marked the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) 43rd annual Great American Smokeout today by calling on state lawmakers to protect the health of Alabama residents by passing strong tobacco control legislation. Only by tackling tobacco use through a comprehensive approach can we effectively overcome the country’s tobacco epidemic and prevent the more than 480,000 deaths each year caused by smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.
The advocacy affiliate of ACS, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), supports evidence-based strategies proven to reduce tobacco use including comprehensive smoke-free laws, regular and significant tobacco excise tax increases and adequately funding evidence-based tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
This effort to combat tobacco addiction comes one week before major tobacco companies are compelled—via court order—to publish statements in notes or “onserts” attached to cigarette packages that explain the truth about their deadly, addictive products to the American public. This is just the latest step in implementing the “corrective statements” that the tobacco companies were first ordered to make over ten years ago by a federal judge who found that Big Tobacco had violated civil racketeering laws, lied to the American public for decades about the health effects of smoking and intentionally manipulated their products to make them more addictive. These corrective statements are a powerful reminder that tobacco’s horrific toll is no accident—it is a result of the tobacco industry’s deceptive, illegal practices.
“The Great American Smokeout is about helping people quit, and we know that smoke-free laws are critical to helping those addicted to tobacco in Alabama do just that,” said Ginny Campbell, ACS CAN Alabama government relations director. “In addition to protecting the health of workers and saving people’s lives from the dangers of secondhand smoke, we know that a strong smoke-free law helps reduce tobacco use by creating a supportive environment for individuals trying to quit and preventing youth initiation by denormalizing smoking.”
ACS launched the Great American Smokeout 43 years ago as a platform to encourage people who smoke to quit. Since then, the program has expanded to not only encourage people who use tobacco to make a plan to quit, but also to encourage all Americans to advocate for comprehensive smoke-free laws, increased tobacco excise taxes and increased funding for evidence-based tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
According to the 2014 Surgeon General’s report, while smoking has declined over the last 50 years since the first report linking smoking to devastating diseases like cancer, cigarettes have since become more deadly and the risk of disease and death caused by smoking has not declined. In fact, smoking is now linked to at least 15 types of cancers, including for the first time, liver and colorectal cancers, and people who smoke today have a higher risk of lung cancer than people who smoked 50 years ago.
“Despite major advances in the past few years, progress has slowed in passing and implementing strong tobacco control policies and as a result, we’re seeing smoking rates begin to level off and the use of other tobacco products rise nationwide,” said Campbell. “It’s time to reinvest in our efforts to reduce suffering and death from tobacco-related diseases.”
The use of tobacco products remains the nation’s number one cause of preventable death, killing more than 480,000 Americans and costing $289 billion in health care costs and lost productivity annually. In Alabama, tobacco is responsible for 3,183 deaths each year.
About ACS CAN
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org.